Three programs of Oscar-nominated shorts will play on the Island this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. The categories are animation, live-action, and documentary, and each will have separate screenings starting on Friday, Feb. 1.
The animated shorts, which range in length from 2 to 16 minutes, span a remarkable assortment of topics without dialogue. The shortest, “Fresh Guacamole,” puts to good use the creative freedom that animation allows. Director Adam Pesapane begins by slicing green grenades as if they were avocados. From there, he moves from baseballs to dice, golf balls, lightbulbs, and other fanciful objects.
John Kahrs’s “Paperman” casts a conventional romance in the framework of a chance meeting on a subway platform. Paper airplanes become the unconventional means of courtship in this black-and-white charmer.
In the longest of the five animated shorts, “Adam and Dog,” director Minkyu Lee imaginatively reinvents the Adam and Eve myth by introducing a dog into the mix. He expands the paradisiacal world of Eden through his elegant drawings and shows the relationship between Adam and Eve complicated by the “first” dog.
“Head Over Heels,” directed by Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, cleverly uses animation to suggest the conflict that develops in a married couple’s relationship. The husband lives in a right-side-up world; his wife’s is upside-down.
David Silverman’s “Maggie Simpson: The Longest Daycare” has the advantage of using a familiar character from the TV series, “The Simpsons.” The littlest Simpson has to give up her pacifier in her prison-like daycare center and contend with another inmate who squashes butterflies. It’s a cute story.
While the animated shorts tend to run with the director’s imagination, the live-action films use the reality-based short form to expand the limits of realism. “Henry,” a Canadian entry by Yan England, tells the fascinating, if perplexing, story of a concert pianist whose wife, Marie, seems to disappear. When another, apparently unfamiliar woman shows up, Henry panics. There are clues along the way to help the audience decipher what is actually happening in this poignant story of old age and loss.
Somalia provides the setting for Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura’s powerful, politically resonant tale. In “Asad,” a boy needs to choose between a pirate’s life and the less violent one of fishing.
“Death of a Shadow,” directed by Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele, creates a dazzlingly surreal world filled with strange photographic machinery. Nathan, played by Matthias Shoenaerts (also in “Rust and Bone”) must photograph the moment of death in the form of its shadow for a mysterious collector.
An American entry, “Curfew” directed by Shawn Christensen, tells the haunting story of a man whose sister interrupts his suicide attempt when she calls and asks him to take care of her precocious daughter (Fatima Ptacek).
In “Buzkashi Boys” directed by Sam French and Ariel Nazr, two Afghani boys form an unlikely friendship over their love of polo as played in Afghanistan. Both of these films use the short form to create compelling stories and characters.
Only one of the five documentary shorts, “Inocente” directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, was available for screening. If it is a measure of the others, their quality is very high. The subject of this nearly full-length (40 minutes) film is a 15-year-old homeless, undocumented immigrant girl who uses her vibrantly colored art to lift herself out of her impoverished circumstances. The filmmakers primarily let Inocente and her paintings tell the story, and it is a powerful one.
All of the Oscar-nominated shorts, whether animated, live-action or documentary, are winners and well worth viewing. The Film Center will hold an Oscar Night Party on Sunday, Feb. 24.
Friday, Feb. 1, 4 pm: Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts. 7:30 pm: Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts plus 3 bonus shorts.
Saturday, Feb. 2: 3 pm: Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts. 7:30 pm: Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts.
Sunday, Feb. 3: 4 pm: Oscar Nominated Animation Shorts plus 3 bonus shorts.
All screenings are at the M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.